It is the second fastest growing sport in New Zealand secondary schools but volleyball has a high rate of attrition when it makes that transition from primary and intermediate to high schools, according to Volleyball Hawke's Bay operations manager Tony Barnett.

"I feel that high schools don't support the summer codes enough in providing schoolteachers to take the teams," says Barnett after New Zealand Secondary School Sports Council (NZSSSC) census figures show it is the second largest growth code in high schools, at 13 per cent over five years and enticing 17,693 participants.

Basketball leads with a growth of 27 per cent over that period.

However, Barnett disputes the census figures based on data he has been collecting lately.


"The changes between volleyball & basketball at secondary school are a big surprise as my analysis shows there were more secondary school volleyball players than basketball players playing in secondary school competitions in 2017.

"Volleyball was ahead in 2016 in Hawke's Bay but the 2017 census data shows it has gone the other way," he says.

Barnett, who has crunched numbers and is happy to show it to anyone interested, says in his assessment there were overall 18 per cent more secondary school volleyballers than basketballers on court in competitions in the Bay last year.

In addition, 10 junior secondary school volleyball teams played in terms 1 and 4 and, therefore, played more than twice as many games as their basketball counterparts, he says.

Barnett says volleyball doesn't receive the rub of the green in schools because one teacher tends to be saddled with the responsibility of looking after two to three teams.

"That's just not great support from the schools. Some of the schools say we're just going to do basketball so we're not going to do volleyball."

However, Barnett says, interestingly enough more players secondary school pupils play volleyball than basketball in the Bay, thus bucking the national trend, in the past two years.

"We also have 80 per cent more girls who play volleyball than basketball."


Basketball has acknowledged it intends to go on a drive to address that gender disparity.

Barnett says the major hurdle for volleyball remains securing ideal venues and booking times that find traction with players, parents and schools.

"There's a venue shortage in Hawke's Bay so it makes it very difficult trying to negotiate extra space. When you do you upset what days you're playing. You're playing on a Monday one term and then a Wednesday on another."

Continuity, he says, is imperative for any code.

The code is humming with primary schools and its Intermediate Volleyball Superleague but at the secondary level they are feeling the squeeze from Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale, but are finding some respite at the Woodford House gymnasium court in Havelock North.

Barnett says they are in direct competition for space with Basketball Hawke's Bay which has booked out PG Arena, Hastings Sport Centre and the Rodney Green Events Centre.

"Because they are long-term users they keep those venues for the time they've got it pretty much."

This time last year badminton gave volleyball the boot from the courts from Hastings Sports Centre.

"We had nowhere to play volleyball or Kiwi volleyball in Hastings in term one last year," he says, revealing volleyball averted that this term by opting to host their Kiwi games on Wednesdays.

Volleyball has been moved to Fridays at the centre from Thursday last year and that hasn't gone down too well either.

The code relies on the PG Arena but there tends to be a long waiting list for it.

Barnett says dialogue has been open with both Hastings District and Napier City councils but they aren't prepared to budge from the status quo.

"When you can't have the same time and place every year it becomes very difficult because schools don't get used to it you so it's not consistent enough but we'll get there."

It's the third consecutive year that volleyball has employed its Kiwisports programme in schools in conjunction with Sport Hawke's Bay, who run it through Sport New Zealand.

While it is a low-cost code, he says, the paucity of courts stifles its growth.

Barnett says as a summer sport it also feels the pinch of secondary school examinations in term four where the window of opportunity for playing senior competition becomes narrow with Christmas holidays beckoning.

"When we start term one none of the schools are organised so theoretically we only have a few weeks so I don't think the secondary schools' sports council has done much for summer sport," he says after Bay high schools began their competition on Wednesday.

"They are not really promoting summer sport and they aren't helping."

He argues volleyball is wooing more female players than any other code and yet the sports council wasn't doing much to promote it.

"If you look at their sanctioning process it isn't very ideal. What they say is nobody should be playing after summer school week ... which is March 22.

"We don't have PG Arena available this week so that just makes it very difficult for us."

Asked if Volleyball HB is considering moving its competitions to the autumn/winter window Barnett says it does raise interesting questions on what it is going to do going forward.

"I think volleyball is going to remain a summer sport but it's just how it's going to be structured so there's a lot of stuff to be worked through yet."

The adult leagues in volley are played during winter.

At primary level volleyball is sanctioned but he suspects basketball isn't so that's why it's played throughout the year.

He also rules out taking volleyball outdoors in the bay because the climate doesn't suit, especially the wind which affects the flight of the lighter ball.

The beach volleyball option isn't any better because the quality of sand is poor in the Bay.

"We do play beach volleyball outside but we don't have beaches to play on."

Barnett says there's grass volleyball but indoor is ideal with the lighter balls.

"The community needs to get out there and support summer sport. I don't see a lot of support for our summer sports at all."

He believes schools need to invest more resources in helping coaches, juxtaposing the disparities between summer and winter codes.

"Count the number of teams from Napier Girls who play netball in Hastings, for example, and then count up the number who play volleyball.

"Why are they so professional in their approach to netball?"

Barnett says in primary schools not everyone has a multi-faceted approach to codes.

"They should be giving kids the opportunity to play in summer codes. Some primary schools simply say to me, 'We just don't do volleyball'," he says.

Children should have myriad options, he argues.